The Sunday Times of UK has published a report stating that Shuffle Master, the US-based manufacturer of casino equipment, will purchase Ongame Network from Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment Plc, the world’s largest online gaming company. It is speculated that Shuffle Master’s move will put it in an advantageous position if and when the US federal government legalizes and regulates its online poker industry.

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Bwin had purchased Ongame Network in 2005 for £474 million, but that was long before the US government passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 and the incidents of Black Friday. Black Friday and UIGEA 2006 decreased the value of Ongame Network considerably, owing to which Shuffle Master is able to purchase it for just £13 million. Just before Bwin merged with PartyGaming to form Bwin.Party, a spokesperson for Bwin had stated that Bwin considers Ongame Network as a “surplus asset,” which the merger no longer requires.

According to the numbers at PokerScout.com, Ongame Network is the 6th largest network as far as cash games care considered. Attracting a weekly average of 2,150 players, it is a step ahead of Winamax.fr, but behind PokerStars.it.

Unfortunately for Shuffle Master, Ongame Network will be smaller than ever after the acquisition, especially because Bwin’s customers will prefer to remain with Bwin.Party. The only plus point is that Betfair, the most popular gambling site after Bwin, is on the Ongame Network though it is not yet known what plans Betfair might be having.

Shuffle Master is a widely renowned manufacturer of automatic card shufflers, which are required at casino gaming tables. The company also owns Shuffle Interactive, a provider of casino games for Mac, PC, iOS, Facebook, and Android, and licenses these games to online casinos.

Shuffle Master is not the only gambling company making such moves in the hopes that the US federal government might legalize and regulate its online poker industry. Even International Gaming Technology (IGT) acquired Entraction Network in May last year for $115 million. However, gaming analysts do not feel that US online poker will be regulated soon. Howard Stutz, a reporter for Las Vegas Review – Journal, had tweeted, “One Wall Street analyst opinion: Internet poker legalization not being attached to the payroll tax bill means the issue is dead for 2012.”

The biggest thing that might happen to US online poker this year could be the attachment of a rider to the cyber security legislation bill or the jobs package bill.

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